Does Your Food Actually Suck? No B.S. Restaurant Evaluation for Managers
Running a restaurant requires a wide facet of skills. Being objective should be at the top of that list. Instead, too many restaurants are preoccupied with the three things that lead to a restaurant’s demise: ego, pride, and denial. It’s not your fault entirely. Perhaps people have been telling you that your food is good. Maybe you even have quite a few good reviews on social media.
But let’s talk about being “good.” It’s become the new standard. Everyone expects it. Good food. Good service. A clean restaurant. “Good” has been diluted to become…well, not that good at all. Good is something we settle on.
The restaurant industry is fast approaching market saturation. The economy can only support so many restaurants. Think of it as an economic survival of the fittest. Good restaurants, the average ones, get drawn into the middle of the market to become a commodity. When brands become a commodity, they have to compete on price. That pricing war erodes precious profits and will leave you doubting if all this is worth it. Well, it is, if you can escape the realm of average.
Focus on Fundamentals
Maybe your food needs help. The first thing to look at is your product mix report. You want to know without question which items are the most popular with your guests — knowing what people spend their hard-earned discretionary income on it a key to long term success. Detach your ego from this exercise and instead ask what else could you serve that resonates with what your guests are buying. In other words, even if you love that quinoa bowl, it’s not worth it to keep around if you only sell two per week.
Get your menu out and examine it with a lens of objectivity. Which items are your hits and which are misses? Which ones does your team execute without missing a beat and which ones end up with a bad online review? An effective menu engineering strategy helps you stop making blind guesses without data. With that data, you can learn what is hot with guests.
Leaders, not Bosses
Get back to teaching the elements of hospitality. We often train only with new hires in our restaurants. This method is the biggest mistake out there! Lack of continuing education is one of the main reasons we have such a high turnover in the industry. We all need to grow. It’s wired into our DNA for evolution and survival. When you fail to provide consistent training (or retraining) to your team, they soon fall into bad habits that send a ripple effect across the bottom line.
Training is never out for the true professional, and as the leader, that starts with you! You must be setting the example that you want your team to emulate. There are no bad employees, just bad leaders who failed their team by not setting and living the standards they create.
It’s easy to go in and be the boss. You can bark orders. Few dare to step up and be a leader within their restaurant. It takes courage to stand up and declare your standards as high and without compromise, to lead by example and not be a hypocrite. It takes courage to put others before yourself. Leadership is an act, not a title. It’s the conscious act out of helping others become their best.
Don’t Be So Sensitive
When your brand is in the public eye, you won’t be a hit with everyone. You need to accept this, but don’t ignore it. That means if people keep saying that something on your menu sucks, it might suck. Be mature about this and have a look into it. The common problem is that sometimes the cooks get “creative” with recipes and plate presentation. These instances are where solid training and standards of critical! The leader has to identify that standard and hold others to it. When it comes to standards in your restaurant, you can’t be democratic about the process. Your standards aren’t negotiable.
If your ego is too fragile, then remove yourself from the process of being critical about your food. Use a third-party service, such as a consultant or secret dining service to help you get an objective look at your menu. Make sure to interview them just like you would anyone joining your team. You want someone with real restaurant experience, not a weekender who thinks they are a food critic.
With some honest feedback, you have what you need to create an action plan to fix it. Don’t ignore the negative reviews from third parties that say your hosts need to smile. Don’t simply rely on your own experiences either! It’s when you are not around that the real personality tends to come out.
Break your action plan down into small, doable steps or you’ll overwhelm your team, and they won’t follow through on it. Change happens as a result of small and consistent pressure to improve. Don’t go in and make lots of changes too fast, or you’ll freak them out! While entrepreneurs and leaders welcome change like a breath of fresh air, most people resist it. Your team that works for an hourly wage…not so much. Don’t be disappointed about this. You need people who can come in day after day doing the same tasks. Just remember that what gets you motivated is most likely not the same things that motivate your team (hence why most sales contests don’t work).
Getting a better restaurant all starts with getting more from yourself. It begins with the concept that restaurants become better when the people in them become better people. What are you doing to become a better leader? To become a better person? What are you doing to improve your team?
Answer those questions, take action and you’ll see that your restaurant might not suck so bad.
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About the Author
Donald Burns is The Restaurant Coach™, named one of The Top 50 Restaurant Experts to Follow and one of 23 Inspiring Hospitality Experts to Follow on Twitter. A restaurant consultant for a $4.2-billion-dollar company, he works with restaurants around the globe that want to build their brand, strengthen their team, and increase their profits. His first book, Your Restaurant Sucks!: Embrace the Suck. Unleash your Restaurant. Become Outstanding, is an international bestseller.